The Watervliet Public Library was founded in May 1953 under the auspices of the Watervliet Civic Chest, Inc. From the beginning we have had tremendous support from the community. The original Library holdings consisted solely of donations from the public and the original work force consisted solely of volunteers. Financial support came primarily from the Chest, although important donations also came from the Watervliet Rotary Club, the Watervliet Lodge of Elks, and the Knights of Columbus.
Our first librarian was a volunteer. Sybell Maclay, who was the librarian at the Watervliet High School, began cataloguing book donations in September 1952. Her services were invaluable, as the library had no funds to compensate a professional librarian. Esther Madsen carried on as volunteer librarian until 1967. Since 1967, the Board of Trustees has engaged the services of various professional librarians. The library's current director is Michelle Fernandez, and the library employs three staff members and a dedicated group of regular volunteers.
In 1965, toward the end of Mrs. Madsen’s tenure, our Library received a provisional charter from the New York State Board of Regents, thus officially becoming the Watervliet Public Library. The permanent charter and Certificate of Registration were granted nine years later, in 1974. In February 1980, the Library moved into its present location in the Senior Citizen Complex. At this time, the Library also became a member of the Upper Hudson Library System (UHLS). UHLS is a federation of public libraries in Albany and Rensselaer Counties. Through UHLS, the Library has the opportunity to cooperate with other libraries by lending and borrowing books through inter-library loan and participating in the Upper Hudson Library Access Network or UHLAN. UHLAN is an on-line card catalog that provides information on holdings in 29 UHLS libraries. Watervliet has been fully active in UHLAN since August 1997. In 2015, the library underwent a massive renovation. The total cost for this 1,365 square foot expansion project was $660,000, of which over $296,000 in construction grant funding was received from the NYS Education Department through the New York State Library. The remainder of the funding came from private donors. The expansion was undertaken with three goals in mind: expansion and improvement of our existing space to better serve the community, expansion of the programming offered to our patrons, and creating more flexibility within the library to meet the scholastic and programming needs of the community. The addition is the new home to the Mary P. O’Brien Quiet Reading Room and the Bill and Judy Fahr Children’s Area. Our existing space was completely renovated, incorporating new technologies and allowing us to better serve our community. Construction was completed in early February 2016.
Primary funding for the Library comes from the City of Watervliet.